Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Tuesday poem #109 : Helen Hajnoczky : Other Observations

A flimsy crutch to hold the light
Day’s back strained against the night
We stroll in sunset’s consumptive rattle.
He scuttles me through muffled streets
Our tedious retreats
Drain hours like the sour aftertaste of milky tea
His company, the dregs of winter between my teeth
Until some baleful fit guides his stupor
To lift a stammering hand to my back
And shuffle closer through the sawdust and ash
To troll me through still more stale roads
And cocoon me in dusk’s colic glow

All too soon his fumbling gaze
Tugs the hemline of my ease

The humid morning pressed against the evening rain 
Night’s fresh breath crushed against the morning’s rays
Thick air wheezed upon the doors of the balcony
Squeezed under the door cracks into the foyer
Let the dawn cough its heat onto the still damp streets
Breathe its stale breath, in sickly heaves
Until the sharp teeth of evening rain
Bite back the day’s hacking heat

And again and once again
The dawn will press its breath into the coiled streets
Will crush its heat against the evening’s sleet
And then again and once again
I will wipe the makeup from my dripping face
I will pull on and then pull off my lace
Come home from work and pull off my heels
And sink into the clotted air of home
And him again, and me again
Another again like a hundred evenings
Again misunderstood empty meanings
Before sleep’s cold relief

Yet in the morning his fumbling gaze
Tugs the hemline of my ease

And yes again, and yet again
I plan to leave and plan to leave
But again I turn back and take my keys
My dreams too heavy when the day begins to wheeze
(And they will whisper, how my eyes are growing dim!)
My disappointment bulges in rolls around my chin
My flesh bloated and swollen as my hope grows ever thin
(And they will whisper, oh she used to be so slim!)
And yet I plan
To stir the stale air
One cold morning is enough
For a breeze or then a gale to blow away our worn affair

But I have met this man already, met them all
Have gone for dinner, drinks, the honeymoon
I have drifted through my life on phony swoons
I know his shows blaring through the flimsy walls
Drowning the lament of my heart torn and hewn
            So how should we conclude?

But I have been alone already, been scalded raw—
I have blundered naked through their gaze
Been wrapped tightly, squeezed and plastered with a grin
When I am hung out for sale, bought and gnawed
How will I  set my chin
To scare the jackals off my last scraps, braised, ablaze?
So why should we conclude?

But I have cast his heart already, cracked and flawed,
A heart I forged with hurt’s bitter flare
(But in a desperate moment still a useful ware!)
Was it the inferno in my own chest
That fired hard our loneliness?
My heart, burned and frozen, freezer-burned and thawed
            So how should this conclude?
            And how should I forgive?

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

I could confess, I have stumbled out in the alleys of night’s storm
Let the rain knot my hair as it tumbles from the eaves
Washing me in the rooftop’s grime, the thick sediment of the city

I could have waited for one of day’s glittering puddles
And fluttered like a magpie to it’s rippling edge

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

And the evening, the night, turn so sleeplessly!
Churned by restless feet,
Raw… exhausted… indiscrete,
Spread across our bed, heavy with humidity.
Will I, after another sleepless night,
Have the nerve to start our final fight?
But though I have grown tough and bitter, tough and resolved,
Though I have convinced myself I want to see your head brought in upon a platter,
I am not Herodias—but a wife of Sodom and Gomorra,
I will resign my freedom to my nostalgia,
And I will sacrifice my future for some long forgotten pleasure,
And will stand frozen, crystallized like salt.

And would it have made any difference, any difference at all,
After wiping the sleep from my bleary eyes,
After hiding in the bathroom again to cry,
Would things have worked out any better,
If I had lied and said it didn’t matter,
If I had swallowed my longing and said nothing at all,
If I had ingested this thought and let it fester,
Instead of saying: “I am Lot’s wife, frozen stiff,
Turned away from you, turned away from it all”—
If I had not turned to you and spit,
            With venom: “You never listen to me at all;
            You never listen at all.”

And would it have made any difference, any difference at all,
Would things have worked out any better,
After the sleepless nights and muffled crying in the bathroom
After the biblical metaphors and making up and twisted sheets
After these conversations and our little deceits
You still never listen to anything I say!
But my nerves dissolved when your shattered face turns grey 
Would things have worked out any better,
If I had rubbed my eyes, smiled, and said nothing at all,
Instead of welling up with venom and spitting:
            “You never listen at all,
            You never listen to me at all.”

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

No! I am not Queen Gertrude, nor could I hope to be;
I am the Chamberlain’s mild daughter, but I amuse the prince
I sway to his plot, happy to deliver his turns and twists
Slight and sweet, there to be spurned or kissed
Delirious, hysterical under crisis
My flowers strewn carelessly yet still apologetic
My frantic dance, foolish if not frenetic
At times, indeed, they think me pathetic—
And yet, I could drown their distaste.

I am alone… and still alone…
I burry my desire in the marrow of my bones.

How to smooth my wrinkles out? Do I dare face the day’s sickly heat?
I wait for night’s forgiving darkness and then stroll along the streets.
I have heard the ravens calling, each to each.

I do not think they will call to me.

I watch them preening their black feathers in the treetops
Then spreading their wings to catch the night’s breeze
When the wind’s rough breath begins to wheeze.

We have floated on the currents of evening’s air
With raven’s iridescent feathers floating on the squall
Till dawn soothes the night’s wind, and we fall. 

Helen Hajnoczky's work has appeared most recently in the magazines Rampike Vol.23 No.2, filling Station issue 59, Poetry is Dead issue 10, and online in Lemon Hound and Jacket2 as well as in the anthologies Why Poetry Sucks (Insomniac Press, 2014) and Ground Rules: best of the second decade of above/ground press 2003-2013 (Chaudiere Books, 2013). Her most recent chapbooks are Cover Letter from No Press and The Double Bind Dictionary from above/ground press. Helen's book Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising is available from Invisible Publishing. She blogs http://ateacozyisasometimes.blogspot.ca/ and tweets @helenhajnoczky.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

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